Can we trust corporate climate scientists? Probably not

Wei-Hock Soon is a part-time employee at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has written dozens of scientific papers on climate change. The main thrust of his argument is that global warming is primarily caused by fluctuations in the sun’s energy, such as solar flares. The recent rise in ambient temperatures on earth, therefore, have little to do with sharp increases in Co2 emissions over the past century and a half. Besides shaky scientific methodology, which we won’t get into, relevant documents recently made public show that Mr. Soon has received $1.2 million from various fossil-fuel interest groups to finance his research. Southern Company (a utility holding firm which invests heavily in coal), for example, has given $409,000 to Mr. Soon, while Charles Koch has donated $230,000. Now, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center is planning disciplinary action for his intellectual dishonesty.

The scientific papers authored by Soon have been described as “deliverables” in his e-mail correspondences with donators, meaning that the findings are essentially being commissioned by whoever finds such publicity useful. Sen. James Inhofe certainly has found merit in Soon’s work, citing his “sun energy” hypothesis in global warming debates on the floor of the Senate, and writing a book about the fallacy of man-made climate change.

While such under-handed “science” may sound new to some people, the practice of corporate-funded research has been going on since the 1960’s. Tobacco companies started to commission studies on their products after the Surgeon General first warned the public about the health effects of smoking. The difference in Mr. Soon’s case is that at least 11 of his scientific papers have failed to mention who was backing the research.


[New York Times]


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